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Traditional French post box, Photo:, Feature photo: fdecomite

Matador U student Thais Chalencon shares her tips for learning French on a budget.

Having lived in France since June 2009, I can tell you that it is possible to learn French without spending a single Euro. I studied 20 hours a week, and after five months I was fluent enough to get my first job as a waitress.

When I arrived in the southern French town of Millau, I barely knew basics like bonjour and merci. Though I watched TV and listened to the radio to get used to the sound of the language, I realized I needed something more. I asked at the local library about French courses for foreigners and was told about the Myriade Association that offers courses to all levels of language learners.

The lessons I enjoyed most were part of a two-hour weekly course called Citoyenneté where we learned about French citizenship and society. This class gave students the opportunity to discuss the differences between our own native countries and France.

I started with three classes a week and soon asked my teacher if I could go to more classes to improve my French more quickly. Attending extra classes also gave me an opportunity to meet other students, and we joked that we spent more time together as a class than with our own families!

How You Can Find Free Language Classes in France

When you arrive in France, ask around about associations that help foreigners learn French. I’ve found the library is a good starting point. Another place where you can learn French for free are the local chapters of the Red Cross, known in French as Croix Rouge. My local chapter offered two-hour classes twice a week with volunteer teachers. In my Red Cross French classes, most participants were older students from England, Australia, China and Germany.

If you are searching for employment in France, you can sign up with the National Employment Agency called Pole Emploi. Once a member, you can study with two additional education networks: GRETA and AFPA.

GRETA is a national network of adult education centers. Free lessons are offered to members of the national job agency who can prove they need language classes yet have a financial hardship. If you pay out of pocket, it’s normally €20 per class.

The Association Nationale pour la Formation Professionnelle des Adultes (AFPA) offers on-site courses and distance education. The AFPA course I took was a correspondence course, and it really helped me improve my reading and writing skills. Most of the lessons focused on employment issues such as interviews and how to write a cover letter. The course materials included books and listening CDs.

Online Resources for Learning French

If you’re interested in learning French but aren’t in a French-speaking country, there are also free language-learning materials online. Here are some sites I found helpful:

Live Mocha

French Paris Online

The last one is all in French, so if you already know the basics, check it out!

Community Connection

Want to study French abroad in a country other than France? Check out Anne Merritt’s article on 6 Places to Study French Outside of France.

For more language learning resources and stories, visit Matador’s Language Learning Focus Page.

Language Learning


About The Author

Thais Chalencon

Thais Chalencon is a Brazilian currently living in the south of France. She speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and French and has her BA in Tourism. Follow her travel writing on the MatadorU blog.

  • Pingback: 6 Places to Study French Outside of France

  • Julie

    It’s wonderful to see your article published here. Thanks for sharing these resources with us.

  • Candice

    Agree with Julie, so happy to see your article here! And awesome resources.

  • Stephen Chapman

    Interesting to read about this experience and what’s available. Well done!

  • Murissa Maurcie

    Thank you so much! I was in french immersion from grade 1-8 but I had to move to a town that didn’t offer any immersion and was on the verge of eliminating all the french classes completely.
    I lost quite a bit of my french and I was really wanting to get it back! I was thinking of doing the Rosetta stone but it is so expensive. I will definitely be following up on some of your free resources!
    -On another note- I hear from a lot of people that the french are rude, but I also notice that none of these people can speak french and didn’t make an effort to. Do you think that these are correlated? What have some of your experiences been. I would be interested in a post about that!

  • Michelle Schusterman

    EXCELLENT resource!!! I’ll be using this one for sure. Thanks, Thais!

  • Mary Richardson

    These are great suggestions that could work in other countries too! I’m even thinking of researching similar ideas in the States.

  • Rebecca

    Excellent resources! I know the ‘basics’ when it comes to speaking French but need to learn more. I believe in speaking the ‘native language’ of the countries I visit … but that’s just me :-)

  • ThaisChalencon

    Thanks everyone!!! I’m glad that you all liked it. Au revoir!!

  • shelley small

    Thais, I am sooooo proud of you, well done and may there be many more articles to come – As you know I have followed the same route as you and am well on my way to at least being understood now! I love living in France, and have found everyone to be very friendly.

  • Joya

    Thanks for the suggestions! I always need to brush up on my French but never have the time. I hope these are time-savers too.

  • gateonetravelreviews

    Merci beaucoup this is what im looking for.

  • Madison

    As a French student I find these websites useful for studying and keep up with my French. Over summer, I lose a large amount, but with this I can keep up with it. Merci!

  • Allison Lounes

    That’s great advice, and I bet it was a great way for you to meet people and make friends in France.

  • Joza

    you can here learn French very easy and fast you will never regret 

  • Mel

    Thanks for the tips, I am in the same position right now. I want to study PhD in Paris but a high level of French is mandatory and plus I need visa. The French courses are too expensive and I am looking for cheaper options. Do you have any idea if I apply to a French course in any of these organizations might be helpful for me to get a visa?

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